As the temperatures rise in Arkansas, Little Rock diners in-the-know head to the city’s restaurant patios, ice cream parlors and food trucks for al fresco, summertime dining. We’ve lined up ten of the best places – from restaurants boasting romantic riverside dining and new summer menus to gourmet ice lollies and street eats – to try this summer.
Voted the most romantic restaurant in Central Arkansas by readers of the Arkansas Times, Brave New Restaurant is an ideal summer foodie destination boasting riverside dining and creative American cuisine. A classy, understated dining room forms the bulk of Brave New Restaurant, but on balmy summer eves, guests head for its gorgeous riverside patio to take in scenic sights of the Arkansas River as they dine. Match Brave New Restaurant’s riverside locale with an appropriately fish-based dish like the smoked fish appetizer – Chef David Brave’s nightly choice of fish served with caper berries and topped with horseradish and whole grain mustard.
The classy, award-winning Capital Bar & Grill is already one of the favorite downtown haunts of Little Rock foodies. Capital Bar & Grill offers classic dishes such as the much-loved signature CBG burger with parmesan fries. However, on the seasonal menu Chef Arturo Solis’ provincial comfort food is given a seasonal twist. Highlights from Capital Bar & Grill’s summer lunch menu include the roast beef au jus sandwich with provolone, caramelized onions and horseradish aioli while dinner offerings include pan-seared sunburst trout with charred cabbage, local radish and mustard jus.
Since chef Justin Patterson set up The Southern Gourmasian in 2012, the gourmet food truck has gained quite the following. Indeed, it was previously named Little Rock’s best food truck in the Arkansas Times Readers Choice Awards. Its Southern comfort food mixed with Asian street eats – think slow-roasted pork shoulder sandwich with sriracha lime butter or shrimp with creamy shiro miso grits and bacon sorghum vinaigrette – can be regularly found at events like Hillcrest Farmer’s Market. But fear not; if you can’t catch The Southern Gourmasian food truck around the city, their brick-and-mortar restaurant in downtown Little Rock serves the same Southern-inspired Asian fusion fare.
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During Little Rock’s legendarily hot summers, locals will no doubt crave a cool, refreshing snack. And what better way is there to beat the heat than with a delicious iced lolly? Le Pops has you covered with its deliciously refreshing gourmet, handmade popsicles. Its classic popsicles come highly recommended; indeed, the chocolate marvel pop was named the best ice cream treat in Arkansas by the Food Network. Le Pops regularly updated range features a number of summer-themed treats, including peach lemongrass, strawberry mango and raspberry basil to name a few.
A gorgeous restaurant residing in a turn-of-the-century bungalow in Little Rock’s historic Pulaski Heights neighborhood, Ciao Baci serves New American and global fusion fare. It is a lovely dining destination come rain, wind or shine though its new seasonal menu is even more reason to try the popular eatery this summer. Focusing on Arkansas-grown produce, Chef Jeffrey Owen has created a host of tempting dishes — such as the summer’s melons salad with chipotle roasted peanuts, cucumber, mint, goat cheese and sesame lime ponzu and the Korean fried chicken with kimchi slaw, chili-peanut glaze and hot mustard potato sauce — perfect for enjoying al fresco on Ciao Baci’s beautiful patio or wraparound deck.
Hot dogs are a classic summertime snack, so if you’re strolling around Little Rock this summer, keep an eye peeled for the Hot Rod Wieners food truck whose seasonal, gourmet hot dogs are ideal for a casual, tasty bite. Opened in 2014 with a grand plan of creating the best hot dog the world has ever seen, all of Hot Rod Wieners’ dogs feature homemade toppings crafted from local ingredients and are served on freshly baked buns from Little Rock’s Boulevard Bread Company. Find them at St Margaret’s Mondays Food Truck Meet-Up, Baptist Health Farmers Market and Stone’s Throw Brewing, and try one of their new summer menu hot dogs like the Krautwäggen topped with homemade sauerkraut salad and spicy mustard.
The Root Cafe is best known for its locavore-focused menu and laidback, shabby-chic ambience. For diners craving fresh, local fare, it’s one of the best places to eat. For a true taste of seasonal Arkansas produce, opt for The Root Cafe’s cheeseburger made with Simon Farms pasture-raised beef and topped with Honeysuckle Lane yellow cheddar or the state fair-style bratwurst made with Freckle Face Farm’s pork, served in an Arkansas Fresh Bakery bun and topped with grilled onions and peppers, yellow mustard and house mayo. The Root Cafe also boasts a pretty, little garden, ideal for enjoying its farm-to-table fare on balmy summer days.
Serving its signature small-batch ice creams, Loblolly Creamery’s sweet treats are perfect for cooling down on a hot summer day. Loblolly Creamery updates classic cones with a local, seasonal twist by incorporating plenty of Arkansas produce; its latest summer offerings include peach buttermilk made with Triple D Orchards peaches and salted watermelon sorbet. You can find Loblolly Creamery’s delicious ice creams at the Green Corner Store & Soda Fountain in downtown Little Rock, many retailers across the city or its traveling ice cream truck.
SO Restaurant-Bar is a contemporary bistro in Little Rock’s historic Hillcrest neighborhood serving refined, rustic seafood and meat. Chef, Casey Copeland, is making his mark with a menu featuring delectable dishes like pine nut-crusted lamb lollipops with pomegranate-lemon moustardo and pappardelle pasta and African saltwater prawns in a creamy pancetta vermouth sauce. The restaurant is also introducing a new Sunday brunch service offering classic dishes, including French toast, fruit salad and house-made biscuits and gravy.
Owner and chef Mark Abernathy describes Loca Luna’s cuisine as eclectic and creative with roots in traditional Southern cuisine, and the award-winning restaurant’s gorgeous New Orleans-style garden patio is a picturesque locale for sampling its signature fare this summer. Take a seat at one of Loca Luna’s shaded tables for a relaxing lunch of salads, sandwiches and pizzas or opt for a romantic, candlelit dinner of lobster-crab stuffed rainbow trout or chicken-fried chicken with pan drippings cream gravy. The patio’s also great for enjoying Loca Luna’s Sunday brunch. Guests can team dishes like classic eggs benedict and breakfast burritos with a Bloody Mary or two.